© POPULARY known as the Zimbabwe STEM lady with an unstoppable ambition, Scelo Dube’s childhood dream was to make enough money to support her family as well as others in the community because when she was orphaned at the age of 16, she got a lot of support from the community.
As a way of giving back to society which played a part in her achieving what she has today, Dube has embarked on a girls empowerment galore by setting up a platform to allow innovation and growth for girls that are passionate about sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Working as a lab technician after graduation, the mother of one daughter noticed a gap in lack of equipment and chemicals to fuel a practical approach to science and went on to start her own company called Laboratory Equipment and Consumables (LEC BIOTEC) Pvt Ltd at the age of 23, meant to supply educational institutions with their needs for the adoption of a practical approach to teaching STEM subjects.
“In the process of pursuing my MSc in Applied Biotechnology and Microbiology, and at the same time buying and selling equipment, and chemicals, and interacting with teachers, research fellows scientists in tertiary institutions, I noticed another gap; the need to engage students in STEM to make the consumables I was importing into Zimbabwe,” Dube told the Daily News on Sunday.
Her passion for science and technology and their potential to improve the livelihood of the communities in Africa led to the inception of Elevate Trust whose main project is the Science and Technology Incubator set out to fuel innovation and entrepreneurship amongst STEM Students.
Dube’s brain child-Elevate Trust- is currently working with universities across the country to achieve the industrial revolution dream and attaining education 5.0 while attracting big brands to sponsor the initiative.
“l am very grateful for all the support we have gotten from sponsors, donors, family and friends. Special mention to Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) for all their incubation support they give to our high school grassroots innovators, Doves, TelOne, NetOne as they have greatly shown their dedication to youth empowerment through Hackathons we run together and these have seen students getting a lot of help to start up companies contributing to job creation and economic development,” Dube said.
The Australian Embassy and POTRAZ are also supporting the Girls in STEM initiative by Dube.
Recently, Elevate Trust partnered with mobile communications company NetOne in training 75 local software developers in a programme that was launched by Google to train thousands of young Africans.
The Trust identified 75 young software developers that were selected from all parts of the country to be part of the Google African Certification Scholarship programme that was announced in April aimed at helping 100 000 young developers become certified on Google’s Android, Web, and Cloud technologies.
The Stem lady’s bias towards women empowerment and ensuring that the girl child is not left behind in the industrial revolution, she went a step further to establish through Elevate Trust, a science and technology incubator (Scitechinc) aimed at fostering entrepreneurship among young women scientists.
The incubator being the first of its kind in Zimbabwe, works towards the creation of new inventions for the African market.
With barriers such as gender discrimination, lack of confidence, language difficulties, low literacy and lack of time and money continuing to prevent girls and young women from taking full advantage of technology, Scitechinc is designed to help scientists commercialise their innovative research ideas.
“The platform focuses on making science a business rather than a career and the incubator currently houses entrepreneurs in ICTs, agriculture, biotechnology, energy, environment, food and nutrition and health with a particular bias on bio innovations,” Dube said.
Pocketing the Youth supporting Girls in STEM award courtesy of Women in Science Network organisation, the Stem lady said the biggest challenge as a young woman is when you feel people in power positions like procurement managers and doorways to business do not believe in you because of gender and age.
“But l have been consistent, furthered my education and networked until people started taking me seriously,” she said.
“Let us re-imagine through stem lenses a Zimbabwe with a bio industrial park, ICT industrial Park with real start-up companies owned by youth and women from stem field driving international trade and contributing immensely to exports and bringing in foreign currency.”
She reiterated that all that is needed to change the face of Africa are more graduates from STEM related fields who are innovative, enterprising and passionate about solving problems in their communities through scientific research and development-young leaders who are upright and driven to make a change.
“So far l have empowered many girls- over 10 000 in Zimbabwe, considering the number of schools l have been to, talking to groups of girls and the number of Innovators hub clubs we have started in schools and tertiary institutions,” she said.
Economic analysts say the provision of innovation hubs could be a means of youth empowerment which would allow the youth to channel their creative energy into a potentially productive source for their communities.
“My advice to a budding STEM woman is that let us thrive to be part of the industrial revolution driven by STEM innovation and entrepreneurship. Let us hold each others’ hands and cheer each other in this male-dominated industry so as to achieve gender parity in the STEM workforce,” Dube said.
Dube’s energetic and hardworking trait, her quest to better herself and be an independent woman started showing when she was just 10years old.
“Growing up l excelled in my studies all the time and took life very seriously. I appreciated the effort my mother put into giving us the best life and always wanted to help. So l started a freezits- super cool business at the age of 10,” the President of the Zimbabwe Science Laboratory Technicians Association said.
“l will carry my goods to school to sell at break time and later on after school will also sell at the community park so as to raise money for my school trips and church trips as l was a very active pupil in extracurricular activities like girl scouts and Drum majorette at school and also an active Pathfinder member at church.”
Budding from Nketa primary school in Bulawayo and proceeding to Minda Mission secondary school in Maphisa, and Mtshabezi High School in Gwanda, Dube did her tertiary education at the University of Zimbabwe, MSc at the National University of Science and Technology, Post Grad Diploma at Stellenbosch South Africa, and Masters in Business Administration at UoG in the United Kingdom.
Sicelo holds an MBA from the University Gloucestershire (UoG), an MSc in Applied Microbiology & Biotechnology from NUST, a BSc in Biological Science and Biochemistry from UZ and a PDM in HIV/ AIDS from the University of Stellenbosch (AFRICA Centre for HIV/AIDS Management).
She also has additional certificates in entrepreneurship and community development: a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from Drake University, USA, a Certificate in Bio Innovations and Entrepreneurship from SPARK, Stanford University, USA, a Certificate in Community Development and Project Management and a Certificate in HIV Counselling from UZ.